I’m back in Colombia! Back “home”, back to work!
I had a quiet flight from Hamburg via Paris to Bogota, where I needed to spend the night in a small hotel as my next flight to Riohacha went the next day. Uli Diekmann organized his friend Fernando Saavedra to drive me back and forth, thanks very much to both! Getting my cell phone back to work with my old Colombian sim card with a data plan was the only chore there, otherwise I cured my jetlag with sleeping as much as possible. Bogota had “German” weather on 2000 m altitude, with moderate temperatures and rain and a thunderstorm. It was almost cozy like home in the hotel room!
Stepping down the gangway after the inland flight to Riohacha the now coastal tropical heat blew right into my face. How will I survive paddling and, worse than that, camping in that climate the next months? I could barely breathe with my nose still blocked from the cabin’s dry air.
I got picked up by my favorite Colombian Navy men, who took me first food shopping and then to the immigration office to get already my exit stamp out of Colomia. I did the same procedure already once in May, as I originally planned to leave Colombia via Venezuela and not to fly home already. They later cancelled the stamp and all was easy and quick. Not this time! In the city office, after long discussions with Uli on the phone as a translator the officer seemed to be unable to get me a stamp on the spot, we needed to see the airport office which opens only tomorrow morning at 7 am. Well…in Peru I got my exit stamp on the hood of a parked car, and the entry stamp right on the beach. Not in Colombia…
The Navy guys took their chance on the rest of the afternoon to refill a bunch of petrol barrels which they simply carried loose on the back of their pick up while we were driving to the Navy station 20 km north of Riohacha to spend the night. The dirt road was at the end extremely bumpy and led right through the desert. I wondered if the barrels may explode on the jumps and in the heat…? But all good.
Just as we arrived at the station the whole crew was standing outside, not really to greet me, but to wait until a professional desinfectant and anti-insects sprayer finished smoking out all rooms with some toxic gas. After the smog over Bogota, it can’t be worse, I thought…and after waiting a while the clouds to disappear I got my separate Commander room for myself. Thanks! No problem that the water worked only late night, more important was that the air condition did it’s great job bar one hour when the electricity stopped. All normal here out in the bush!
This morning at 6.40 am we sat already in the immigration office at the airport in the hope to get the stamp as quick as I was used to the other times in Colombia. But the poor officer was fighting the wardrobe-sized computer system to be able to log in for eventually more than two and a half hours… while calling via three different mobile phones some people for help, answering a bunch of e-mails, trying to scan my passport about fifty times and taking my finger prints about thirty times until the system eventually was willing to take his efforts. I rather was spending my time reading my e-book, too bad it had no pages to hide a few $…my patience was probably stronger than the officer’s and the computer did eventually what it should do. They need to have a plan “B” if the system was really the problem? The stamp was still done simply manually…
Eventually we were off and on the road to Puerto Bolivar! My young driver proved again his ralley skills, on the paved road it was more scary when he was able to drive high speed than later when the road gradually turned into a slalom around potholes and a rough bumpy dirt track at the end. In between they stopped at one of the many litte food stands where they all offer the same – skinny dry goat strips from the free running animals in the sparse bush barbecued on a sliced open barrel , together with a thick fatty corn tortilla. It smelled not too bad and the whole booth looked reasonable clean for a bush kitchen, but my instinct said I better not try the locals’ food prior to my first days on the water…The food left overs with the bones the guys simply flung into the bush on the roadside. The stray dogs may be very happy, but the styrofoam box just added to the trash covering almost all ground here. What a life…
In Puerto Bolivar, in the mining village I got my old large house “Casa 8” back, and could prepare my bags all afternoon in peace. My stored items were all there and in order, thanks to Eliecer Avila organizing again, though unfortunately not present himself this time due to being on vacation. I just needed to pack and organize the things and food I brought along. I wrote a bunch of e-mails, and I am ready now for my bed after a good shower! I get picked up at 5 am tomorrow, and we have a boat ride of 3-4 hours ahead of us until we reach the spot where I stopped last time – right at the boarder.
I am so sorry there is again no chance to cross this small Gulf with for me “only” 90 km, the easterly headwind is blowing strong 20-25 knots at least from the early afternoon and gives me no chance. Inside the Gulf the wind is less strong, but I am prepared to paddle the next four months again against the wind… after I have rounded the next peninsula it will be reasonably low and hopefully not breaking me down too much. But “Caribbean fun” could look different… if I’d gone the other way!